In my consulting practice I expose the uninitiated to videoconferencing on a regular basis. These are predominantly business owners and executives who have, at the most, used Skype or another free videoconferencing platform prior to meeting with me. When they experience business-class videoconferencing – regardless of whether it is an inexpensive desktop system, a higher-end conference room system, or a full-blown immersive telepresence suite – their reaction is the same: “I’ve never experienced anything like that before. It was amazing! The audio was so clear, and the picture so good that it felt like I was carrying on a normal conversation with Georgina. I did not expect videoconferencing to be like that!”
In the industry we know that this reaction is common. So common, in fact, that the industry’s mantra has become, “You just have to experience it.” Seeing really is believing.
Regardless of whether your company has already invested in videoconferencing or is thinking about doing it in the future, you should ask yourself more than just “Why do we want it,” or “How well is it working for us.” You need to start out by asking what you expect from it. Managing expectations is nothing new in business. In the case of videoconferencing, it is the perfect place start.
Here are some of the classic expectations. Which ones are on your list?
- We expect to see a reduction in travel costs as videoconferencing replaces some amount of travel.
- We expect to see an improvement in productivity, measured in ways that make sense to our industry: Reduced time-to-market for new products, increased productivity of individuals who now travel less, increased effectiveness amongst teams with remote members.
- We expect to have improved communication with our clients.
- We expect our technical conference services manager to monitor and assess the “health” of the videoconferencing service. Measuring things like percentage of on-time and trouble-free video connections, accurate scheduling of resources, excellence in execution of all tasks associated with a video connection (from scheduling, to technical, to food service, to customer satisfaction measurements).
- We expect a short time-to-resolution for technical and service (personnel) issues.
- We expect satisfied “customers” – whether internal staff or external visitors, customers and clients.
If this sounds like the expectations your organization has, congratulations! You’ve achieved the status quo for the videoconferencing industry. But if you have made, or are about to make, a big investment in this technology you should expect a higher, visionary level of performance.
The status quo will not get you there.
What the status quo does is to manage and fine-tune the videoconferencing service: the set of services associated with scheduling, preparation of the conference and class rooms, set up and connection to the remote sites, proactive monitoring of connections for issues, and so on. This model has served enterprise-level videoconferencing well for years. But it is no longer good enough.
My theory is that the technology is now so good that it has minimized the distractions to human communication which were part and parcel of videoconferencing in the past. It is more transparent. Years ago, we put up with small video screens, fuzzy images, standard definition (SD) video quality, varying qualities of monaural audio, freezing images, small delays in interaction that you have to get used to, hard to operate computer graphics sharing, and so on. But now all of those aspects have improved making the systems much easier and more intuitive to use. The result is that the technology does not get in the way of communicating like it did before. It feels more like a natural, normal conversation; so now we tend to talk about how it feels: The Videoconferencing Experience.
This higher level of experience suggests a new, higher style of management. Videoconferencing in the enterprise is no longer a set of services to be managed. It is a visceral, experiential medium for interaction and should be managed in a new and visionary fashion. It is time to stop managing the videoconferencing service and to start managing the videoconferencing experience.
Part 2 in the “What do you expect” series will expound on this concept.
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